Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

The Journey of Transformation: Chaplaincy Leadership Redefined

LaVera Crawley, MD, MPH, OFS
System Vice President Pastoral and Spiritual Care
CommonSpirit Health
San Francisco, California

In the realm of healthcare, amidst the hustle of advancements and the hum of machines, there exists a quiet but potent force for change: the spiritual care leader. The Transforming Chaplaincy Certificate Program for Spiritual Care Management and Leadership stands as a testament to this evolving role, offering not a destination but a passage towards aspirational leadership.

The fabric of the program is woven with the threads of the NCHL Competency Model 3.0, balancing the act of leading with the art of introspection. Over nine months, participants from varied backgrounds engaged in our curriculum virtually, sharing insights and learning the nuances of spiritual care in a health system that is as complex as it is human.

Our third cohort—24 dedicated individuals from across 12 states, representing 11 diverse health systems— recently completed the program. Their collective enthusiasm, shaped through our curriculum, was not just impressive, it was transformative. Just as chaplains provide solace and strength to those in need, this program offered them with a framework to lead and inspire within the health care ecosystem.

The Capstone: A Reflection of Applied Wisdom

This year’s journey culminated in our Capstone Session, a convergence of thought and practice in the setting of Rush University. Here, participants presented their Applied Learning Projects (ALP) – each a microcosm of their dedication to elevating spiritual care within their organizations. The ALP is the pinnacle of the program—an opportunity to dive deep into real-world issues, strategize solutions, and emerge with a profound understanding and a plan of action that’s as compassionate as it is competent.

Their projects, though varied in scope, shared a common thread – they were a tangible expression of our collective aspiration to better serve those in our care. They spanned a vast array of vital topics, from staff and grief support to spiritual care program design. They were not just projects; they were bold statements of intent, blueprints for a more humane and efficient health care system. Each project, a tapestry of insight, wove together metrics of staffing productivity, quality improvement, and patient experience—each a testament to the power of strategic spiritual care.

Reflections of Growth and the Language of Leadership

As the program concluded, our participants reflected on their remarkable journeys. They spoke of newfound confidence, an enriched understanding of health systems, and a mastery of the language of business and finance that empowered them to advocate for their departments. Their growth was palpable, their insights profound, and their commitment to mission-based leadership unwavering.

They had learned not just to manage, but to lead with a sense of purpose, to build teams that thrive on collaboration, and to embrace change with both arms open. Their reflections were a chorus of optimism and capability, a narrative of leaders who had not just learned but transformed.

A Faculty Dedicated to Excellence

Guiding them on this journey with me were my esteemed colleagues—Andrew Garman, George Fitchett, and teaching assistant Kristen Schenk. Our combined efforts, along with the wisdom imparted by guest faculty from various health systems, strove to offer a learning experience that was as rich as it was rewarding.

The Aspiration and the Reality

As we look back on the program’s milestones, it’s clear that our aspirations are high, and while we strive for excellence, there is recognition that we are on a path of continuous improvement. The program, though impactful, is on a journey of its own—evolving, reshaping, and aspiring to reach the ideals we set for ourselves. Listening to the invaluable critiques and suggestions from our students, we are committed to enhancing the program even further. We’re integrating dynamic interactions, case studies, and other interactive elements to foster even deeper learning and engagement. As we gear up for the fourth cohort in September 2024, the excitement is palpable, and the promise of what’s to come is inspiring.

Reflections of Growth: Blessings Shared  

Our final session this year was rich with the spirit of camaraderie as students shared blessings with one another—offerings of hope and a vision for a continued partnership. One such blessing that resonates with the essence of our collective experience was shared:

“To all of you, my colleagues and fellow chaplains, we began as strangers but now part as friends. We unite under a common purpose, and it’s my hope and prayer that this is not the end but the beginning of a collaborative force that will fuel our efforts to make a difference.”

Another blessing resonated profoundly, capturing the ethos of our collective endeavor:

“As colleagues on a similar journey, thank you for sharing yourself on what can be a lonely path. May we continue to connect and find confidence knowing we have all we need within ourselves and our community to make a difference.”

This blessing reflects the core of our program—not a proclamation of arrival at greatness, but an acknowledgment of the continuous effort towards it. It is a reminder that while the road is long, we are equipped with the passion and the support of a community to make meaningful strides.

Leave a Comment